We all know BART has tracks, lots of them — but on Thursday, October 28, a balmy early evening, pre-Halloween hoopla, there were sound tracks emanating from the Glen Park station plaza: the music of 510JAZZ (that’s “five-one-oh jazz”), an East Bay band.
In a spot on the northwest corner of the plaza which seemed to be designed as an entertainment venue–and whoever noticed this or thought about it in the rush to get to and from work?–this intimate band set up perfectly in the space and sent out their mellow sound to folks who came to hear the concert along with random commuters and passersby. It was 5:00 pm and buses and cars went by in the background of our busy village.
The concert was part of BART’s Sound Tracks outdoor music series designed to reward the resilience of riders during the pandemic and attract more of them back to BART. The concerts were held at four different stations featuring different bands and music styles. Glen Park was the only San Francisco location; the other three were in the East Bay. They were publicized through BARTable, a website that promotes attractions and events accessible by BART.
Jennifer Easton, art program manager for BART, organized the event. When asked how she chose Glen Park among all the SF stations, she said, “I knew this stage, the neighborhood, the retail nearby plus lots of foot traffic. It’s a perfect setting. The cool thing is this demonstrates how this location can be used as a stage for the community, for kids, for dance parties, whatever. Right now it’s also reminding people what live music is like.”
For a fee, and with some lead time, the space can be reserved with a permit for community events.
Fremont natives John Vargas and David Vargas (aka rapper “D-Varg”) are the core of 510JAZZ. They compose songs that combine contemporary jazz, bossa nova, hip-hop and R&B genres. They produce and perform their music with the other members of the band: Frank Markovich on guitar; Mark Rickey on keyboards; Charlie Channel on bass; Kevin McNair on drums; and vocalist Oshra Sedan.
For a sampling of the concert, see the links below. The last one introduces the band.
Glen Park BART also lends itself to relaxing listening on the seating or just standing in the spacious plaza.
A gentleman named Barry reflected on riding BART during the pandemic. He noted the fifty percent cutback in service and the reduced hours. “Sometimes I’d come in and have an entire car to myself, kind of weird. But as time went on more people showed up–it’s about thirty to forty percent of normal now. It feels better now because they’ve restored the service, but it’s not so crowded that you feel like people are on top of you.” His neighbor on the bench, Scott, said he hadn’t ridden BART the last couple of months; he mainly rides MUNI, but noted, “I don’t have to worry about the train schedule anymore because if I’m going downtown I can just get on any train.”
BART director (and District 8 supervisor back in the day) Bevan Dufty was spotted in the audience. He was pleased to tout BART’s performance during the pandemic and speak to how ridership patterns have changed. Whereas previously BART has been losing riders on evenings and weekends, it’s performing strongly now during these times. As for weekday transit, Dufty says that BART has become the transit system for essential workers.
The work from home trend has had a great impact on BART and it remains to be seen how ridership patterns will evolve. “I recently toured a tech company and you can see that the innovation firms are reimagining what work will be like, so there’s no question that it will grow,” says Dufty. “But will it grow enough so that we’re not looking for additional financial help from the federal government?”
Overall Dufty is positive on how BART has adjusted during the pandemic. No stations were closed. People were moved around so no one was furloughed. They’ve been careful not to overspend. “We’re not alone. All the transit agencies are suffering but BART has been very nimble and resumed midnight service so I feel good.”
It also felt really really good to sit back and listen to 510JAZZ at the Glen Park BART station.